Give the Gift of Life: Why Platelet Donations are Needed for Cancer Patients

I’m often asked about the difference between donating platelets and donating blood. The processes are quite similar.

Many of our patients need platelet transfusions on a daily basis because of the type of care they’re getting. Platelets are formed in the bone marrow, and patients with blood cancers are often not able to produce their own platelets. They need to receive platelet transfusions quite regularly.

Platelets have a short shelf life – that is, they do not remain healthy for extended periods of time outside the body. For this reason, we encourage those giving blood to donate platelets as well. This helps supplement the need for platelets by our high-frequency transfusion patients.

The platelet donation process is, for the most part, the same as that for a blood donation. However, platelet donation involves a few more cycles. Although it requires more blood, the donor’s red blood cells are returned back to him or her. As a result, you can donate platelets as frequently as every two weeks.

Whole blood donations are also needed at Roswell Park. Patients lose blood during surgeries or develop anemia through the treatment process, and then need red blood cell transfusions. For a blood donation, you need to be a type match. But the great thing about platelet donations is that you do not. Almost anyone can donate platelets for a person in need of them. You can even designate your platelets to a certain patient or loved one undergoing treatment. You can also do this with whole blood donations, but it must be a type match.

Everyone on our Donor Center team is an experienced nurse, so you can feel confident in your care while donating blood or platelets.

Around vacation times and holidays like now, we have a more urgent need for blood and platelet donations. Thank you for considering donating the gift of life this holiday season!

To set a convenient appointment time for your donation, just call (716) 845-8275 or e-mail us at